Using a virtual private network (VPN) is a great and relatively easy way to hide your online activity from third parties and secure your communication streams. This is particularly useful if you’re running a remote team and need an effective way to keep attackers from snooping around your business.
That said, there may be times when you need to disable your VPN either due to a slow connection or in times when you want to access different types of restricted content. Scenarios where disabling your VPN might be a good idea may include:
- Setting up a new Wi-Fi connection on your device
- Using a SaaS platform, a TV broadcast, or a website that is only available in your home country
- Traveling to countries where VPNs are illegal, such as Belarus, China, Iraq, North Korea, Oman, and Russia, to name a few.
Before we go into the technicalities of how you actually disable your VPN on each type of operating system, let’s go back to the basics: How do you even know if you’re using a VPN in the first place, and how can you be sure your device remains safe when switching the VPN off?
How To Tell If You’re Using a VPN
This may sound like a trivial question, but if you’re just making your first steps with a VPN, you may not know whether or not the VPN is actually activated.
We once heard about a user who bought a VPN license from one of the leading VPN providers and didn’t use it even once throughout an entire year because he wasn’t aware that he had to switch it on. Apparently, just downloading the VPN software to your computer or phone is simply not enough.
So, to make sure your internet connection is running on a virtual private network, take a look at your Wi-Fi networks. Next to your list of available connections, you should also be able to see one or more VPN options.
The name of the VPN would usually be the name of your VPN provider. Open that one up and click “Connect” to turn the VPN on using the last location you used previously, or open the VPN software to select a new server location and connect directly through the VPN app.
Once the VPN is connected, all your activities, including all of your communications, should be routed through an encrypted channel that hides your real IP address and gives you a fake one instead. That’s basically how a VPN works.
If you’re still not sure whether you’re browsing the web through an encrypted channel, try running a test on one of our recommended testing sites. This would show you which IP address is assigned to your device. If that IP address is different from your regular one, it means you are running on a VPN.
Is It Safe To Disable Your VPN?
The short answer is that disabling your VPN to perform specific tasks quickly is probably harmless, given that you turn it back on when done. The problem is that oftentimes, people tend to forget to turn the VPN back on, and that’s where the troubles start.
Some VPN providers, such as NordVPN, have built a way around this by allowing their users to temporarily switch off their VPN, and automatically turn it back on after a preset amount of time has passed, usually within one hour.
If your VPN does not offer that feature, we recommend setting a reminder on your phone or leaving yourself a note to make sure you don’t forget to perform this quick yet crucial task.
How To Disable a VPN
Disabling your VPN is a straightforward action that can be performed either through your device settings or directly in the VPN software that you are using. However, you may find that switching off your VPN causes you to lose internet access. This probably means you have the killswitch option enabled.
VPN providers add this feature to prevent situations where the VPN is suddenly disconnected, for whatever reason, without the user’s knowledge. If that is the case, go back to your VPN software and make sure the kill switch is turned off. Now you can disable your VPN and still have internet access.
While each VPN provider displays these options in a slightly different way, it’s usually pretty intuitive and does not require any special instructions, just make sure you don’t mix up the kill switch with the Disconnect button, which is a common mistake.
Finding your device’s VPN off switch can be a little tricky because each device displays it in a different place. So, we’ll show you exactly how to do it in each device category: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, or a Router.
Disable a VPN on Windows
Disabling your VPN on the Windows operating system is a simple, three-step process. Different versions of Windows may display those options in a slightly different way, but in essence, they all work pretty much the same way:
- Visit Settings > Network & Internet
- In the left-side menu, select VPN
- Select the VPN connection that you wish to disable
- Click Disconnect
Disable a VPN on MacOS
- Select the Apple icon from the top left corner of your Mac home screen.
- Select System Preferences and Network >VPN
- Click Disconnect
Disable a VPN on iOS (iPhone or iPad)
- Visit your device Settings > General >VPN
- Change the VPN status to Not Connected
Disable a VPN on Android
- Go to the device Settings > Network & internet > VPN
- Change the VPN status to Off
Disable a VPN on Your Router
If you’re using a VPN router that protects all the devices on your Wi-Fi network simultaneously, like ExpressVPN has on offer, disabling it on all devices at once becomes easier, though not necessary in most cases.
Again, different router manufacturers and their dedicated apps have different ways to display these options, but ultimately they all work the same way.
Simply go to the settings of your router app and switch off the VPN from there, or reset your router altogether. Just remember that this will disable the VPN on all devices within the network range, so make sure you switch it back on when you’re done.
Disabling your VPN connection is not a complex task and probably a harmless one when done temporarily. Just make sure you do it for the right reasons and only when absolutely necessary. Most importantly, if you don’t want to end up exposing your IP address to third parties, always remember to switch it back on when you’re done.